Contact: Friends of Pennsylvania Wildlife • John Eveland • 412.601.0077 • jfeveland@friendsofpennsylvaniawildlife.org

PGC's CHESAPEAKE FARMS CONNECTION

 

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) lists four staff biologists within the agency's Deer and Elk Section, one elk biologist (Jon DeBerti) and three deer biologists (Chris Rosenberry, Section Supervisor; Bret Wallingford, Wildlife Biologist; and Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle, Wildlife Biologist).  These four wildlife biologists report to Calvin DuBrock, Director of the Wildlife Management Bureau; and Robert Boyd, Bureau Assistant Director.

 

It can be  no coincidence that of the myriad accredited university degree programs throughout the nation which annually produce thousands of professional wildlife and conservation biologists, that all three deer biologists employed by the PGC attained their graduate degrees from the same college (North Carolina State University), were mentored by the same NC State advisory staff members, and conducted their thesis deer research at the same small 5-square-mile agricultural and deer management sanctuary along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 

(1) Bret Wallingford graduated with a Masters Degree from North Carolina State University in 1990.  His principal NC State thesis advisors were Richard Lancia (Coordinator, Fisheries and Wildlife Program) and Mark Connor (Adjunct Professor at NC State and Director of Remington Farms (now called Chesapeake Farms)).  At Chesapeake Farms, Wallingford conducted his research on this pristine 5-square-mile agricultural and wildlife management sanctuary that is owned by The DuPont Company.  His thesis was titled "Use of radio-telemetry to determine observability of female white-tailed deer on Remington Farms".  In summary, his research attempted to determine if evening road counts of marked and unmarked deer reflected the actual number of deer in the herd.  Note that his Bachelor of Science degree was from Penn State  in Environmental Resources.

 

(2) Chris Rosenberry graduated with a Ph.D. Degree from North Carolina State University in 1997 –  majoring in Zoology with a Statistics minor.  His principal NC State thesis advisors were the same as Bret Wallingford's – Richard Lancia and Mark Connor, Director of Chesapeake Farms  where Rosenberry conducted his research at the same agricultural sanctuary as Bret Wallingford.  His thesis was titled "Dispersal ecology and behavior of yearling male white-tailed deer."  Quoting from his doctoral thesis, "The goal of this research was 2 fold: 1) to estimate emigration, immigration, and survival of yearling (10 to 18 months of age) male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at Chesapeake Farms (formerly Remington Farms) near Chestertown, Maryland, and 2) to test alter- native hypotheses of proximate mechanisms of emigration."  Continuing, "Emigration is defined as the permanent movement from a natal range of known origin, whereas immigration is defined as the permanent movement from a natal range to a known destination."  In laymen terms, he studied the movements of yearling buck within the agricultural sanctuary.  Note that his  Bachelor of Science degree from Juniata College was in Biology.  Although beginning his Chesapeake Farms research with a bachelor's degree toward achieving a master's degree, his advisor assisted Rosenberry in bypassing the master's degree and going directly from a bachelor's degree to a doctoral degree.

 

(3) Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle graduated with a Master's Degree from North Carolina State University in 1999.  As was the case with Wallingford and Rosenberry, her principal advisors were Richard Lancia and Mark Connor, Director of Chesapeake Farms, where Jeannine Tardiff conducted her research and assisted Chris Rosenberry with his.  Her thesis was titled "Use of agricultural lands by white-tailed deer: use areas and habitat selection."  From her thesis, "My goals were to detail female use area and philopatry; to compare crop field and clover field utilization; and to document deer use of clover patches."  In other words, her intent was to determine how far doe moved from their birthplace within the small agricultural sanctuary, and if they preferred eating in clover or soybean patches.  Summarizing her findings, "Data from 1997 showed an average annual use area of 530.11 and 379.54 acres for yearling and adult does, respectively.  Yearling and adult average use areas, in 1998, were 180.43 and 266.98 acres, respectively."  In other words, during her two-year study, in one year adult doe used a smaller area than their offspring, and in the next year adult doe used a bigger area than their offspring.  She concluded that agricultural crop damage could be reduced by increasing the antlerless harvest (thus reducing the size of the deer herd), and by encouraging farmers to plant more highly-palatable clover fields adjacent to their soybean fields – surmising that by sacrificing fields of clover, farmers could reduce damage to soybeans.  Note that her Bachelor of Science Degree was in Environmental Science from the University of New England.

 

Chesapeake Farms is a small (3,300-acre (5-square-mile)) private agricultural and wildlife demonstration area that appears to be a far cry from the wildlife dynamics of the "real world".  Quoting from Rosenberry's thesis, "As a graduate student who worked at Chesapeake Farms, I consider myself to be one of a fortunate few.  Chesapeake Farms is a special place in which to conduct research.  Aside from the natural beauty and peacefulness of the area, the kindness and helpfulness of the employees at the Farms added to the experience."  These sentiments were shared by Fleegle, who stated, "My degree might say North Carolina State University, but Kent County, Maryland was where I called home for 8 months of every year while attending school. Dr. Mark Connor and Chesapeake Farms gave me the unique opportunity to study white-tailed deer in a place that most of my fellow graduate students called heaven."  As a point of interest, as of 1999 Ralph Fleegle had been an employee of Chesapeake Farms for over 20 years – assisting the three PGC deer biologists and other NC State students at the Farms.  After leaving Chesapeake Farms and NC State, it appears that Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle married into this Chesapeake Farms family.

 

Mark Connor (Director of Chesapeake Farms as an employee of The DuPont Company, and an Adjunct Professor at NC State), lists his research interests as "population ecology and management especially white-tailed deer, management of crop damage by deer, and wildlife in agro-ecosystems."  Fleegle referred to Mark Connor in her thesis as follows, "As manager of Chesapeake Farms, Mark was present throughout my fieldwork to aid with whatever crisis I happened to have on a daily basis."  From Rosenberry's thesis, "As manager of Chesapeake Farms, Mark served as my on-site advisor throughout my fieldwork and provided advice and insight into field techniques and "deer stuff" in general."

 

Hunters were permitted on the area in the fall.  Regarding the deer management philosophy of Mark Connor and Chesapeake Farms, Fleegle wrote in her thesis, "Over the past 18 years the management strategy at Chesapeake Farms has changed dramatically from less than 20 antlerless deer harvested to over 100 antlerless deer harvested in a season.  These management tactics have been applied to the deer population on Chesapeake Farms as a form of quality deer management."  Quoting Rosenberry's thesis, "As more areas begin to consider practicing Quality Deer Management..." Thus, it is evident that both Rosenberry and Fleegle had adopted the philosophy of the Chesapeake Farms sanctuary – that Quality Deer Management constitutes reduction of the deer herd which is achieved through increasing the antlerless harvest.

 

Jeannine Fleegle's thesis offered little to no reference toward scientifically managing deer in the interest of sportsmen and recreational hunting.  Conventionally, state conservation agencies seek to maximize the sustained annual yield of deer by adjusting the size of the herd to the carrying capacity of the forest – accomplished, therefore, without impacting  the health of the forest or the health of deer.  Such a maximum-sustained-yield philosophy and scientific management practice had been in operation for decades in Pennsylvania by the predecessors of the three current North Carolina State/Chesapeake Farms deer biologists. As a result, Pennsylvania had been acknowledged for decades as one of the top  deer hunting states in the nation.  This time-tested, successful, scientific deer management philosophy has, unfortunately, been abandoned within the past decade to be replaced by the current impact-based/ecosystem management philosophy.

 

From page one of the Introduction of her thesis, Fleegle quoted, "Wildlife also can be costly.  Crop damage is a cost that is increasingly associated with white-tailed deer.  More than any other wildlife, deer are perceived to cause the most damage to crops."  In like fashion, from the first paragraph on page one of the Introduction of the PGC's current 2009-2018 Deer Management Plan that was authored by Rosenberry, "Balancing white-tailed deer impacts is the fundamental issue affecting a majority of Pennsylvania's deer management decisions."  Continuing on page one from the Management Philosophy section, "White-tailed deer are the state animal and a valued part of Pennsylvania's wildlife community that can impact other species, their habitat, and people.  Management decisions cannot focus solely on building a bigger deer herd, setting a deer harvest record each year, or interests of a specific stake holder group" – referring to sportsmen. 

 

Therefore, at NC State and Chesapeake Farms, PGC's three deer biologists were educated and trained in a deer management philosophy that identified Quality Deer Management as reducing deer impacts, accomplished by increasing antlerelss harvests as a means toward decreasing herd size. Whereas students from most university wildlife degree programs are educated and trained to view deer as an asset to the natural ecosystem and society, PGC's three deer biologists were trained in a setting that views deer as a negative impact-causing element with little to no emphasis placed on the value of deer, the tradition of recreational hunting, and sportsmen. From the Conclusion of her thesis, Fleegle wrote, "Reducing the amount of crop damage is the only practical way to reach this goal.  There are two ways to reduce crop damage: reduce herd size and/or prevent deer from eating crops."  Hence, PGC's deer biologists brought with them from NC State University and Chesapeake Farms a wildlife management philosophy that was better suited for private organizations such as Audubon and the Sierra Club than for a traditional state game management agency – that is, until the current executive staff of the PGC adopted this same philosophy over a decade ago.

 

That such a university degree program and management philosophy would focus on the negative aspects of deer with little perceived regard for the benefits of recreational hunting and sportsmen might be a matter of concern.  That all three PGC deer biologists received their degrees from this university, were mentored by the same advisors, conducted their research at the same Chesapeake Farms agricultural sanctuary, and were instilled with this same management philosophy should be considered beyond coincidence, and a matter of great concern.

 

At Chesapeake Farms, Rosenberry coordinated antler restrictions – changing restrictions from a seven-point antler requirement to a 16-inch-spread requirement.  Upon graduating from NC State and leaving Chesapeake Farms, Rosenberry was briefly employed by Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife as a deer biologist.  There, he administered the state's deer management assistance program (DMAP) and coordinated a citizen's task force for deer management input.

 

The three deer biologists and those in the PGC who hired them have adopted the deer management philosophy of Chesapeake Farms, and are using Chesapeake Farms as a template to systematically convert the state to this system.  It is, therefore, evident that PGC's deer biologists were not hired to manage Pennsylvania's deer herd in the best interest of the resource or sportsmen, or to pursue the PGC's mission statement as prescribed by state law.  Instead, it appears that they were specifically hired to decimate the herd.  This they have achieved.

A Published Article by One of PGC's Chesapeake Farms Three-Member Deer Team

 

Introductory note by John Eveland (1/14/18): The following article was posted by one of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s three deer biologists.  All three deer biologists were trained on a five-square-mile agricultural demonstration area in Maryland called Chesapeake Farms in the value of eliminating deer to protect agriculture.  Below are excerpts that demonstrate that PGC’s deer managers do not consider deer as a valuable natural resource, but simply as forest vermin to be eradicated. They were hired not to serve the interests of sportsmen or wildlife resources, but to eliminate deer from the Pennsylvania landscape as they had been trained at Chesapeake Farms.

 

Biology is Messy

Posted: December 10, 2017

Here in Pennsylvania another deer season has come to a close and I can’t say I’m sorry. The hate and loathing I experience this time of year however has nothing to do with hunting.  I recently shared a photo of a happy pile of deer heads on our Twitter feed. Someone commented that it was “NOT a good picture for non-hunters!”

    

There is nothing bad about a pile of deer heads.  Why? …one less deer on the landscape.   

 

And what of non-hunters?  Sorry, but a photograph of a pile of deer heads is not offensive to this group.   How can I make such a bold statement?  I am a non-hunter!  Other than the smell and the occasional bulging eyeball, I have never been offended by a deer head.

  

If you like trees and flowers and birds, then be thankful for that pile of deer heads.

 

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist

PGC Deer and Elk Section